Everyone craves freedom, and all students use phrases like “I want to do what makes me happy.” Majors are no exception. Earlier this blog covered how one might go about choosing a major in the series “A Major Decision.” However, if you feel stifled or limited by the already available majors at universities, you can create your own major. Now, I must caution you: creating your own major must be done with care due to university restrictions.
1. You are not allowed to create your own major if an already existing major satisfies your needs. For example, if a major covers 90% of the classes you want then you can’t make your own major. Also, most university allow for electives. The university is trying to prevent “whims.”
2. To go along with point 1, if your needs can be satisfied with double majors or minors then you will probably be denied the right to create your own major.
3. Some universities are even more extreme. If the customized course combination you want is available at another university, then they will not let you create your own major. This is a necessary restriction because the university wants to make sure you did your research in choosing your college and major.
4. You have to get your course list and major approved by an advisor. Also, you are not exempt from university requirements.
University of California, Berkeley
At UC Berkeley, you can design your own curriculum through the Interdisciplinary Field Studies Major. You are required to take certain courses within the major but most of the courses are up to you. You must create an Area of Concentration (what you want to study) and the courses needed to support your idea. As its name suggests, you get to take courses from various disciplines and one of the requirements is that your proposed area of study integrate at least three different fields. Another aspect of this major is that it is very research-oriented. The university assumes that you wish to create a major because you want to research further into that field. Thus, you work with a faculty advisor to design a thesis and do a research project. As you can see, it is definitely hard work to create a major but also quite rewarding if it fits what you want to do. Find out more at http://ugis.ls.berkeley.edu/isf/
Similar types of programs can be found at:
University of Washington: http://depts.washington.edu/istudies/student_designed/
University of Minnesota: http://admissions.tc.umn.edu/news/08_01_03/index.html